Why Settle When You Can Find Someone To Run Wild With?

After nearly 6 years of being together, I realized one very important thing about me and my fiancé: we had never taken a trip together, just the two of us. See, I got pregnant within about six months of our relationship. Our first trip was to Miami to visit my family for a weekend. After our son was born, we had a few trips home for the holidays. When we moved to Florida, we started going on some family trips—St. Martin/St. Maarten and Cuba with our kids, road trips to Memphis and across the Southeastern US. We’d even taken trips without each other—I have been to a few conferences for work, he went to London for his birthday, I also went to London for my birthday (though this was at a different time). Still, newly engaged, I wanted to take some time to be with my man, just the two of us.

I scoured Groupon Getaways and Living Social Escapes, searching for a deal that could fit within our salaries while also not taking away too much time from our respective jobs. I didn’t have too many specifications. I just wanted to visit a place neither of us had ever been to, preferably in another country. Low and behold, a deal to Costa Rica came up. I immediately booked the 4 day, 3 night trip, and paid for it all upfront (there’s really nothing like a sunk cost). Luckily, my fiancé’s mother graciously offered to babysit the kids while we were away. After a few months, it was finally time for our Valentine’s Weekend trip.

The first day of the trip started at 3:00 AM. We decided to fly out of Ft. Lauderdale airport, a 4.5 hour drive away from our home. Most people would look at that time and refuse, but as seasoned road warriors, we simply saw it as a way to save $400 in plane tickets. We arrived to the airport with plenty of time to spare, lugging a couple of backpacks filled with basic essentials for our weekend.

The flight itself was short and pleasant. We flew Spirit airlines… and we liked it. Expecting the worst, we were pleasantly surprised by the polite flight crew and clean aircraft. We ordered some cocktails and toasted to our new found freedom. It was the first time we had flown somewhere together and not had to worry about crayons and coloring books and story time and snacks and who was hitting who. We could just be. I read an old paper back that had been sitting on my shelf for way too long while he listened to some new mixtapes he’d been meaning to get to.

Adventure Nerds

Just a couple of nerds ready to find some adventure. 

We arrived in the afternoon in San José, ready to get to the rental car station. After an hour wait through customs, we made it to the agency with fresh stamps in our passports and a desire to venture into the city after a long day of sitting. We ate lunch near a casino at the recommendation of one of the agency’s employees then set off to our destination, a boutique hotel just outside of Jacó. We arrived just after dusk, the winding roads trailing off into dirt trails and pulled into the hotel’s parking lot. Behind us, the ocean roared against the wind, while just across the lot was a herd of cattle grazing in the moonlight. We checked in, changed into our swim suits, and ate, drank, and swam beneath the stars. Once we’d had our fill, we rested in our room, the ocean beckoning us to sleep.

Monkey Jungle Kayak Tour

Ready… set… kayak!

The next morning we set out early to drive up to Quepos where we took a kayaking tour of the monkey jungle. I was reminded of my Florida childhood, paddling around mangroves while watching crabs scuttle off tree trunks as birds pecked around. Then, towards the end of our tour, we came across a troop of white-faced monkeys (also known as Capuchins). Though my fiancé attempted to take a few pictures, his slippery camera case made it difficult. We then realized this was a sort of blessing, to be forced to experience this moment without the need for immediate documentation. The monkeys snacked on discarded bits of lime and watermelon thrown into the canal by the local humans. We smiled as we paddled on, thanking our guide as we drove into Quepos looking for a hearty meal after the two hour tour.

We found a restaurant that again reminded me of the sort of place I’d eat at near a beach in Florida. I ordered a delicious meal of rice and seafood while he ordered a burger. We sipped (or rather chugged) sangria. After our meal, we rented a cabana on the beach so we could soak up the sun, napping and drinking, holding hands and swimming. We watched the sunset, something we can rarely do living on the east coast. We then packed our belongings and survived the seemingly treacherous roads back to Jacó.

 

That night, we decided to tour a few of the local bars, stopping in at a kitschy tiki bar that was hosting a reggae night. The cocktails were delicious and we admired a bridal party that danced while bathed in indigo and lavender light. The band sang many songs I grew up with, and their rendition of “Could You Be Loved” took my back to my childhood, sitting in my papi’s Jeep while we drove down to the Keys for our weekend camping trips. Once again we drove back towards the hotel, the ocean drawing us towards a restful slumber we were rarely afforded with two children under 5.

 

Upon waking, we ate a hearty breakfast. Our last full day in Costa Rica, we were going to take our very first surfing lessons. Sure, surfing is a fairly popular sport in North Florida, but given our busy schedules, we rarely had time to do something as extravagant as spending two hours surfing. Our instructor taught us the basics, helping my clumsy self find various ways to pop up on the board. After about 20 minutes, we were off, clumsily scraping our legs against board and sand, finding our rhythm in the natural sanctuary. Ever the athlete, my fiancé was standing on his board in no time, riding waves like he’d been born near the ocean. I on the other hand… struggled. My lack of coordination and larger size made balancing a challenge. I could get my knees on the board, but I couldn’t stand up in time to catch a wave before I found myself toppling over. Then, after switching out my board and teaching me some breathing techniques, it clicked. I stood up, listened as locals cheered me on, jumped off my board and popped back up to find smiling faces. After two hours, several scraps across my legs and thighs, and a deepening exhaustion in my bones, we finally called it quits, thanking our instructor as we limped to our car, looking for a meal and hydration.

Sushi with a view

Sushi with a View

We stopped at a local restaurant that served all kinds of fare. I settled on sushi that had thin slices of maduros (sweet plantains) on top. It was surprisingly delicious. We ate and drank in a little booth on the beach, beneath a shady tree and umbrella, our bodies cooled by a refreshing breeze. We watched local surfers chase waves, their friends huddled under makeshift huts. After a couple of hours, we limped our way back towards the car and called it an early night, our sore muscles demanding an evening of rest.

That last morning, before our flight, we ate our breakfast while facing Playa Hermosa, where our hotel stood. We breathed in the fresh air, enjoyed our final meal of rice and beans, maduros, eggs, and sausage. We checked out of the hotel and made the drive to the airport, being sure to stop at a road-side “Soda” (small restaurant) to pick up some snacks before our flight. After turning in our car and clearing security, we sat at a gastropub near our gate, immediately making plans for our honeymoon and vowing to take a trip like this, just the two of us, at least once a year.

Perhaps our trips won’t always be whirlwind international getaways. And they probably won’t consist of any more tropical locales for a while. But we will make time for each other, just each other, running wild across the world, with love in our hearts and passports in our pockets.

 

My First Solo Trip

Why does being single, going out to dinner alone, or a movie by yourself seem so taboo? Is this just generational thinking in our society? I suppose it took me a while to be OK with things like that, but traveling alone was something I had yet to explore. With no real preparation, it sort of just happened one day on what started as a week vacation to Jaco, Costa Rica. I had recently broken up with my partner of 5 years so I was ready to get away for a bit.

IMG_20171010_105630_373

Jaco Beach by our Hotel

We had a blast in Costa Rica. We went on a boat tour to visit come crocs with the Crocodile Man Tour.

14883421_10154036303717544_5461498531309217121_o

Playing with the giant crocs

We went to visit the Arenal Volcano.

Manuel Antonio Park and Beaches

ATV Riding

Deep Sea Fishing – Stung by a jelly fish but still enjoyed beer.

20171204_164820

Deep Sea Fishing

There was one day in particular that made me question all of my life’s decisions. In Manuel Antonio, there is a small secluded beach called Playa Hemelas and I was sitting there looking out into the gorgeous blue ocean, listening to the waves crashing, I had my epiphany. It hit me hard, and I knew it just felt right. I knew at that moment that I just couldn’t go back to my old boring office job and that lifestyle. I had experienced freedom like I had never known and I wanted more.

My life wasn’t horrible back home, but I wasn’t fully satisfied either. So it was then I made my decision to quit my job and stay in Costa Rica for a while longer. It was crazy I know. But it felt so right. I didn’t really care about my boring job, I was single, I had some savings and I was already in Central America. It felt like perfect timing. I had dreamt about just quitting my job and escaping somewhere far but until then I didn’t have the guts to go through with it.

IMG_20171226_092812_985[1]

Jaco Beach

It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I had never traveled alone to a foreign country. I would never be the same after this experience and I was excited and terrified all at the same time. Was I out of my mind? I basically quit my whole life as I knew it to start something new, something I had dreamt about my whole life.

IMG_20180112_074414_614[1]

Exploring Playa Hermosa

I enjoyed just exploring on my own, no real plan, just getting know the area and the locals.

I was finally happy! Super 100% without a doubt, genuinely happy!

IMG_20171012_131653_776

Playa Hemelas

After spending a couple of weeks in Costa Rica, I decided I still wasn’t ready to go back home. This new found freedom was addicting.

IMG_20161110_135210

Deep Sea Fishing

Next country was Belize. I made my way along the “Gringo Trail” in Central America. No longer afraid to be alone, completely dependent on me, myself and I, and the freedom to come and go on my schedule, I was hungry to visit as many places as I could.

 

15110962_10154073420977544_1591210544360100050_o

Xunantunich Ruins entrance

I planned on visiting some of the ancient ruins near by. I had to take a bus and walk to the draw bridge that was the entrance to Xunantunich Ruins.

15129453_10154073425827544_4364384883209577119_o

Lost in thought at the ruins

I realized I was on a journey of self discovery.

I spent several months backpacking around Central America visiting BelizeGuatemala and Mexico. There is no experience like traveling alone in a foreign country, completely dependent on yourself. I highly recommend it at least once. It changes you. You really learn about yourself. I kind of felt invincible.

Let me know about your solo travel experiences.

Source article at rgreatescape.com

One Week in Costa Rica

When talking about Costa Rica one must mention the famous phrase pura vida. People always told me that the only way to understand its meaning was by visiting; after several invitations, from a Tica-Panamanian friend, I decided to take a week to visit this country (“Tica” or “Tico” is what Costa Ricans call themselves).

Traveling between Costa Rica and Panama can be done in about 13 hours by bus, but we found a deal on flights, so we took the chance on a flight of less than an hour and a half, I saw how Panama City turned into Costa Rica.

These are the sights and curiosities that Costa Rica gave me in a week.

1. San José

I had no expectations about San José. I’d decided to let this place speak on its own, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that it is full of tiny but very interesting places. Basically, we went through San José by taxi, bus and Uber without any problems. One of the nicest aspects about the city is the green landscape that surrounds the city, I recommend visits to museums like the Museum of Pre-Columbian Gold with a really interesting exhibition, National Theatre and street markets which can be really interesting for those who enjoy collecting things or Central American culture.

 

 

As for the nightlife, I visited many places like La Concha de La LoraEl Cuartel de la Boca Del Monte and La Calle de la Amargura, most of them had all kinds of live music and people dancing. One of the places I liked was the Jazz Café where we saw a really good reggae band.

We also had the opportunity to visit the restaurant Ram Luna at Aserrí, where we had a spectacular view of San José and other places; at this restaurant we enjoyed typical Costa Rican food and show for 40$.

1037

Mirador Ram Luna

 

2. Locals 

20151102_133647

Costa Rican people are so friendly, that they are one of the many reasons to come back.  Ileana was the person who welcomed me into her home for that week and I still cannot believe how nice she was to us. Besides being so nice,  her cooking skills are so delicious that we barely visited restaurants. All Costa Ricans with whom I spoke were very open, cheerful and warm, while there was a table with food and drinks, as well as plenty of conversation flowing.

On the other hand I loved many words from their vocabulary,  I visited Costa Rica looking for Pura Vida, and end up delighted with tuanis, ¡qué chiva!, ¡Diay! and other expressions. Ticos call my afro “Colochos”, so there’s another great way to call naturally curly hair.

 

3. Regresar Rodando

20151102_162427

Chifrijo

Eating in Costa Rica is kind of a big deal, there was A LOT of food in every table. I kept thinking that I would end up rolling back to Panamá. The food is so delicious, that it delayed my schedule sometimes. I tried the famous Gallo Pinto, which although delicious was totally strange for me to eat rice for breakfast. Another dish that was recommended was Chifrijo, so as a good Latina, I loved it.

On the other hand I tried Costa Rican coffee and beers; I was invited to taste Chiliguaro (several times) a ​drink that seems to be made with tomato juice and a few other things that I invite you to experience yourself.

 

No soy una persona de tantos postres pero debo decir que la Torta Chilena en Spoon, it’s a thing!

4. Colores and Landscapes

IMG-20151105-WA0015

Camino a Laguna Botos

Everyone tells me how lucky I am to have met the Poas Volcano clear. The plan was to go from San José to Alajuela and from there to the volcano but we missed the only bus that goes by day, so we had to go up by taxi. We had the view of the crater and Laguna Botos. The pictures speak for themselves.

IMG_20151104_155810

Laguna Botos

20151104_105322

La vista era linda para todos

2

Volcán Poás

We also visited the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel, at the foot of the Arenal Volcano, a beautiful place with 25 pools of hot spring and of course overlooking the Arenal.

366

Cueva en Baldi Hot Springs

 

382

Baldi Hot Springs Hotel

499

This and so much more can be done in Costa Rica for a week! I will definitely come back to visit the places that I missed.